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Using your kids’ debit cards to talk about money this summer

The money talk — not as scary as the birds and bees, but still a big deal.  In fact, 49% of parents say they’re not sure how to explain money to their kids [1]. Enter: Summer Break. More time at home means more time to talk about money management. Follow along for some conversation starters and tips on how to have the money talk.

EXPLAIN WHY BUDGETING IS IMPORTANT

79% of Americans keep a budget [2], which is great. Budgets may be a bit more involved for grownups, but that doesn’t mean your kids can’t start learning the basics. How? Start off by explaining why budgeting matters. There’s a good chance they’re already wondering that.

Conversation Starter: “What’s something you really want but you haven’t had the money to buy?” Maybe it’s something you can’t fit into your parent budget, or maybe it’s something you think they should buy on their own. During the summer, there are lots of opportunities for your kids to make money — help them figure out how to manage their earnings.

BREAK DOWN COMMON BUDGETING TERMS

Fixed expenses and variable expenses — ring a bell? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, these are important words to teach your kids about budgeting. Break it down into Summer Break terms and they’ll get it.

Conversation Starter: “A fixed expense is one that doesn’t change. Like, our Netflix subscription. It’s the same price every month. A variable expense is one that does change. Like, a meal at a restaurant. It can go up or down, depending on where we eat.”

TALK ABOUT SAVING MONEY

Budgeting for Summer Break is one thing — saving for it is another. Instead of handing over a wad of cash and hoping they stash it away, make it a hands-on experience with a bit of fun along the way.

Conversation Starter: “Saving money lets you buy things that you might not have enough money for right now. When you add a little bit of money to your savings over time, it adds up so you can buy those things one day.” Tip: Help your kids make a savings goal (or better, lots of goals). Then, work together to plan out how they’ll reach that goal.

GIVE KIDS THEIR OWN DEBIT CARD

The fun part about the money talk is giving your kids their own debit card. Unlike a credit card, they can only spend what’s on it. The best part? They won’t realize that they’re learning valuable lessons every time they use their card — but trust us, they are.

With the Greenlight debit card and app, your kids can:

  • Set savings goals.
  • Learn to make trade-off decisions. Keychain or shark-tooth necklace? It’s their call.
  • Earn allowance through chores. Cool fact: Greenlight kids who earn allowance save 26% more. Woohoo!

A few other things you can do in your app:

  • Manage access to ATMs. Are they withdrawing a bit too much? Set limits.
  • Choose stores. You decide where they can and can’t spend. Gas only? Just at restaurants? Adjust the settings in your app.
  • Get real-time notifications and monitor their spend levels.

GET SET FOR SUMMER

Join Greenlight today and help your kids get a head start on budgeting for their Summer Break — and for life! Sign up now

[1] Investopedia.com [2] Debt.com

Everything you need to know about National Decision Day

For many high school seniors, May 1st is an important day: National Decision Day. It’s the day they decide what comes after high school — the first of many big decisions they’ll make for themselves. This year, it also marks a day in which their decisions are heavily impacted by the world around us. 

They did the work, took the tests, made it through the teenage years and now have their sights set on graduating high school. While you and your family explore different ways to commemorate this milestone (perhaps with video calls and virtual graduation parties?), we hope you can still find time to talk about the next chapter of your child’s life.

The new-age debate

Our Gen Zs live in a world of entrepreneurs and self-starters. They’re seeing success as seven-year-old YouTube influencers make millions and 16-year-olds start their own companies.

So it makes sense why your kids will have different thoughts and considerations surrounding the college talk. That’s not to say that they don’t want to go to college — they just may not see it as the only option. As parents, we need to listen to that so we can guide them toward a decision that we all feel good about.

To sign or not to sign? What to consider

The college talk isn’t just on National Decision Day — it’s year-round. It’s a good idea to stay in the loop with the merging views on the subject. When you delve into the college talk, you may come across split views on a few things: 

Student loans: 

Because every financial situation is different, student loans are a hot button for many parents. If you and your kids are thinking about student loans, take time to explore every avenue and talk about how it will impact them throughout and after college. 

In 2018, the average individual student loan amount was $29,200. Loans may or may not be an option for your family. Either way, National Decision Day is a great opportunity to talk through the numbers with your soon-to-be grad. 

Public vs. private vs. community:

The good news is we’ve got lots of options. The not-so-good news? Well, it’s hard to decide! It’s no secret that most private schools come with a heavy cost and community schools are typically the most affordable. Public schools tend to sit somewhere in the middle of the two. 

Talk to your kids about finances — how they’ll be managing their money throughout college, pros and cons of an expensive school and what matters most to them. Your conversation could bring you to a cost-benefit analysis (bonus!) or it could spark up a new outlook on the entire decision-making process. 

Career analysis: 

Anyone else feel like their kids are too young to decide on a career path? In many ways, they are. That being said, they may have a different perspective. 91% of high schoolers believe they know their dream job, according to a survey done by EY and Junior Achievement. 

To them, a career is fun, exciting and adulty (their word, not ours). You know better than them that careers are not just about fun — they’re about financial security and stability. 

The transition out of high school is a prime time to have an open, honest conversation with your kids about this. You have the best insight into your kids’ strengths and interests, and you can use this knowledge to help them choose a path that will give them the biggest return on investment. (Props to you if you can make ROI sound fun!) 

Looking for a way to start the conversation? Try these: 

“Are we there yet?”

You’ve got a lot to think about, but no need to stress about it. National Decision Day is an exciting time for you and your kids. No matter what path they choose, the most important thing is that they have you. 

And… they have Greenlight! They may be growing up, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop helping them make wise money decisions. If you haven’t already, join Greenlight to keep your kids financially-healthy and happy throughout this next chapter of their lives.

April Financial Literacy Month: Start talking to your kids about money


There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding families across the globe as we navigate a new time full of many changes. As parents, we’re all spending a lot of extra time in our homes, with Netflix binges and family game nights to keep us entertained (read: sane). 

Times like these can present opportunities for very teachable moments with your kids. Whether you’ve become a teacher in a literal sense or you’re trying to set a good example during this unique time, we’re here to back you up and give you the tools to help your kids navigate the world of money…. starting with Financial Literacy Month. 

April is Financial Literacy Month, and we’re ready to jump into savings goals, helpful Greenlight features and mini-lessons for you and your kids to learn together. Now that you’re spending more time at home, let’s explore financial responsibility and all that it can unlock for your kids!

Cover the basics

Smart saving habits are the cornerstone of financial health and happiness. If you can get your kids thinking (and talking) about saving at a young age, they’ll have an easier time with it as adults.

We’re all about rewarding smart saving skills, so we’re giving Greenlight kids the chance to win $500 when they add to their savings goals this month. As long as they’re contributing to their goals throughout April, your family will be automatically entered for a chance to win. Make sure your kids download the app!

Talk it out

There’s no need to teach your kids about money all at once. Instead, start with simple conversations that get them in the money management mindset. 

For example, talk to them about wants vs. needs so they can start to understand why they need to allocate their money toward certain expenses. Or introduce them to credit and debit — two totally different concepts, but both very important for your kids to understand.

Join the community

Now we want to hear from YOU! Join our conversations on social media and stay up to date with our blog. We’ll keep you in the know on our Savings Goal Sweepstakes, share kid-friendly finance tips and give you all kinds of ways to get connected with other parents like you. Let’s let off some steam but keep it supportive — we’re all navigating this crazy world together! 

From our family at Greenlight to you and yours, Happy Financial Literacy Month.

Ideas to help keep kids happy, busy and learning while at home full-time


From all of us here at Greenlight, I hope you and your family are staying safe and healthy during this time.

In my house, we’ve been doing our best to stay healthy and productive. My 11-year-old son has been trying to get 60 juggles with his soccer ball, shooting baskets, playing video games and somehow fitting in some school work (with a lot of help from my wife Kelly and his teachers). My 16-year-old daughter has been hanging out in a hammock in a tree with her friends who are doing the same thing, six feet away from each other. (This must be a teenager thing?) Our golden retriever has always wanted to come to work with me, and with me working from home, he finally gets his chance. My favorite thing about the current situation: playing a lot of board games with the kids.

As we explore this new way of living life as full-time caregivers, teachers, chefs, entertainers and peacekeepers, I wanted to share a few tricks and resources that have been helping Kelly and I keep our four kids happy, busy and learning – while helping us keep our sanity. 😊

The School of Mom and Dad

Home-Schooling Tweens and Teens During Coronavirus Closings

For Younger Kids

For All Kids

Arts & Culture

Indoor Recess

Art projects

We noticed a pileup of cardboard boxes and had our kids use them to create their dream homes. Of course, our daughter built an airplane house, fully equipped with a pool and tennis court. Sky’s the limit, right?

We had the kids illustrate their own short stories – an activity that could last a couple hours or several days, depending on the complexity of the story.

Outside time

We’ve been encouraging the kids to go outside and play in our yard at least a couple times a day.

Quiet time

Sometimes, my wife Kelly and I crave moments of quiet. We’ve encouraged our kids to dust off their favorite books at least once a day for dedicated quiet time. It breaks up the day, and we all read at the same time.

Family games

We’ve been playing a lot of board games with problem solving components to keep the kids engaged and thinking.

What’s been working for you?

I’d love to hear more about what’s working for you. Join us on Facebook and Instagram for discussion and sharing ideas on how to keep our kids happy, busy and learning.

Sending best wishes from my family to yours,

Tim Sheehan
Co-Founder & CEO
Greenlight

Photo of boy paying for smoothie with debit card.

Why kids should understand the difference between debit and credit cards

Today, it’s not surprising that Americans have shifted from the traditional use of cash to more modern methods of payment like debit and credit cards. According to Fundera, 70% of consumers prefer using cards as a form of payment and 54% prefer using debit cards. 

Debit and credit cards provide convenience, more security than cash and are accepted nearly everywhere. It’s safe to say that while cash may not be going away, teaching children the basics of what credit and debit cards are now will prepare them to use cards responsibly in the future. 

Prepare them for the reality of credit cards

A credit card is a form of payment issued by a bank or business that allows the holder to purchase things on credit. When making purchases with a credit card, you promise to pay back the money you owe (plus any interest!) at a later date. 

When you carry a balance over month-to-month, the lender charges you interest on top of the amount you owe. Carried balances and interest can add up quickly and many families find themselves in a position where it’s tough to pay credit cards off.

In fact, 41% of America’s households have credit card debt. It’s important to introduce your kids to the concept of credit cards while they’re still in the nest – that way, they are prepared to carry one later in life. 

When it comes to teaching your kids, we recommend starting their money management adventures with a debit card. This protects them from overspending because they can spend only the money they have, and allows them to build healthy habits early before they enter the world of credit.

Teach them to manage money with a debit card

Debit cards provide more security than cash and fewer worries about debt than a credit card. A debit card is a form of payment that deducts money directly from a bank account to pay for a purchase. With debit cards, owners can have easy access to their available funds and can often also put money aside for something special using a savings account. 

Kids need to learn how to manage a debit card just like they need to learn how to drive. Whether your child runs their own lemonade stand during the summer, starts their first job or gets an allowance, a debit card can help kids learn to manage balances, save money, and more!

How Greenlight helps

Greenlight helps kids learn how to manage money and form strong healthy habits that will serve them as adults. According to Greenlight CEO Tim Sheehan, the reason Greenlight is a debit card is to “help kids learn to effectively manage the money they’ve earned, as opposed to spending money they may not have.”

Parents are the primary account holders and have the controls to choose where their children can use the card, manage chores and allowances, set parent-paid interest rates on savings, and more. Kids are able to monitor their balances, create saving goals, and learn how to make financially-smart decisions in a safe environment with their parents’ guidance. 

How parents send money using the Greenlight debit card.

Mistakes are just mistakes

With Greenlight, there is no chance for a child to overdraft or overspend since we decline any purchases greater than the child’s available balance. Mistakes are just mistakes! Parents get alerts when kids try to spend more than they have to spark conversations about budgeting and wise spending. 

Parents are able to allocate funds to their child’s “Spend Anywhere” account or choose specific stores where kids can spend and how much they can spend. They can even help their child create a savings goal and contribute money to meet that special goal. 

Ready to teach your child how to manage money responsibly?

Join Greenlight today to start adventures in personal finance with your kids!

Let Greenlight help you set new year resolutions that you'll actually keep to jumpstart your progress.

New Year Resolutions & Bright Futures

Studies have shown that financial health is strongly connected to physical and mental wellness. There’s no better time than now to start routines that set your kids up for financially-healthy and happy futures. Let Greenlight help you set new year resolutions that you’ll actually keep to jumpstart your progress.

Resolution #1: We all need a bit of balance (tracking)

Our goal at Greenlight is to make sure all kids are empowered to make financially-smart decisions. We think empowerment starts with knowledge — working with kids to make sure they understand how much they earn, how much they spend and how they should save. 

Tip #1 is all about making sure kids take the time regularly (dare we say it, daily?!) to track their spend history and account balances. This new year resolution will naturally spark conversations around trade-off decisions, teaching your kids responsibility in budget management.

Within the Greenlight app, kids are able to monitor their spending, earning, saving, and giving history. This allows kids (and parents!) to track:

  • How much to expect in allowance
  • How much is available to spend
  • Progress toward their saving goals

“I have two teens (13 & 14). Being able to see their spending and balances digitally via the app has made them much more mindful of how and when they choose to spend their money.”

Antoinette K, Greenlight mom

Resolution #2: Save! Save! Save!

We know it’s hard for kids (especially the young ones!) to understand the difference between wants and needs. Starting kids out with a savings account early can teach them to save for what they want and be prepared to cover what they need because unexpected things happen. 

Consider mapping out a monthly plan with your kids to help them articulate, save for and reach their goals. 

The most popular saving goal for Greenlight kids in 2019 was a car!

If your kids earn an allowance based on grades or chore completion, write out how much each grade or task is worth. That will help them calculate what they need to do to accomplish their goals.

Parents are also able to help their kids reach their goals by setting aside a portion of allowances into their child’s Greenlight save account, helping reinforce wise saving habits.

Setting up saving goals within the Greenlight app helps kids visualize what they’re saving for and regularly track their progress.

Greenlight kids who create saving goals save 29% more than kids who don’t.

Once a week, consider having a family meeting to talk about how close your kids are to reaching their goal. Reviewing their spend history can help kids rethink a plan for the next week on how to spend less and save more. This regular routine can turn into a long-term habit that magically reduces the number of times you get asked for money.

Resolution #3: Watch savings grow with Parent-Paid Interest

After you get your family into the habit of saving, it’s time to learn about how to make your savings grow. Greenlight helps teach the power of compound interest by offering parents the ability to pay a parent-paid interest rate on top of their child’s savings.

On average, Greenlight families set a parent-paid interest rate of 18%. 

Once your kids understand the concept of compound interest, you can set your parent-paid interest rate to a more realistic one and have conversations around what grownup savings accounts typically earn.

Resolution #4: Have you done your chores?

Chore routines can be a great way to show your kids that money has to be earned. A recent poll of Greenlight parents showed that 73% give allowance, and 47% say their kids have to earn it. 

Use the beginning of the year to reassess your family’s chore routine. With age may come new responsibilities, changing the chores typically assigned to your kids.

However, if ever, you choose to reward your kids for chores, Greenlight can help with task management. With the Greenlight app, you can set one-time or weekly chores based on the routines you set for your family. 

In 2019, Greenlight helped kids finish 1.8 million chores!

Parent reviews all chores in one view within the Greenlight app.

If your child does dishes weekly, Greenlight allows parents to assign tasks and regular deadlines. If your child contributes to other household responsibilities by cleaning the gutters once a month, one-time chores may be assigned with an optional monetary reward upon completion.

Whatever your goals, Greenlight is here for you.

Greenlight is here to help your family feel empowered to talk about money and form smart habits with all the tools to raise financially-smart kids. Not a Greenlight member? Sign up today!

Greenlight’s 2019 Year in Review

You did it. You celebrated the birthdays, packed lunches for soccer tournaments and survived the endless conversation about Minecraft. Congratulations, Moms and Dads — you’ve made it through 2019. 

As we look toward 2020, allow us to celebrate the unsung heroes of financial literacy – YOU! The hundreds of thousands of Greenlight parents teaching their kids the value of a dollar and the art of making smart trade-off decisions.

In 2019, Greenlight kids did 1.8 million chores and collectively managed more than $150 million. But that’s not all.

Greenlight's 2019 Year in Review infographic. 
Kids managed $150+ million in 2019.
They set aside $2.6 million to give and did 1.8 million chores.
On average, they spend $91 per month, and 30% of what they spent went toward food and grocery.

Looking toward 2020

In 2020, we’ve got big plans to improve the Greenlight app and add more features for your kids to learn the full-spectrum of money management.

We’ll be weaving more educational layers into the Greenlight app, making it fun (and painless!) for kids to build smart earning, spending, saving and giving habits.

Our team is also building tools for kids to learn all about the world of investing, with a new suite of features that allow kids to invest in multiple funds and even buy fractional shares from their favorite companies.

Our single most important job is to support you – the parents doing the hard work. Together, let’s make 2020 the Year of Financial Literacy.

*Data captured from Greenlight families based on activity from Dec 2018 to Nov 2019. Average monthly spend calculated only for kids who spent.

The Best Gift is One That Gives Back

We love the holiday season at Greenlight. It’s a time when families have thoughtful conversations about what they’re thankful for. Many talk about the importance of generosity and reflect on our responsibility to give to those less fortunate. Some families offer their time to support noble causes and give back to their communities. Some choose to make donations to nonprofits.

Throughout this Thanksgiving season, we encourage you to share with your kids the gift of giving. 

Generosity is part of human nature. And it leads to happier lives.

A research study published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology in 2015 explored generosity in toddlers by putting a container of marbles at shared tables to see how their children would distribute the marbles. Most of the time, the kiddos would distribute their marbles equally. 

In another variation of the study, toddlers were given separate trays and the researchers randomly distributed the marbles between them. In situations where a child was given more marbles than their partner, one-third of the time, the lucky toddler with more marbles would give up their extra marbles to their partner to even the score.

A different study by the University of Zurich in 2017 found that generosity actually makes people happier, even if they only give a little. 

Choose your way to give.

Ashley Noto, Greenlight’s SVP of Product and Analytics gave us a look inside how her family gives back during the holidays: “With all the gifts from friends and family during the holiday, I think it’s also a great opportunity to celebrate the joy of giving with my kids,” she said.  “At the beginning of the season, we adopt a family in need. We all contribute earned allowances and participate in buying items for the family. As the season comes to a close, my kids give back — either a toy or a portion of gift money they received — to a charity of their choice.”

There are many different ways kids can share their generosity and give their time, effort or money! 

  1. Time: Choose an organization to volunteer with as a family. Volunteermatch.org is a great place to identify opportunities to donate your time. You can even search by different causes.
  2. Unwanted items: Involve your kids by encouraging them to clean their closets and donate old clothes to local organizations.
  3. Toy or food drives: Many schools and local businesses run toy and food drives around Thanksgiving to give to those less fortunate. 
  4. Money: Donating money helps enforce lessons in budgeting with kids while instilling the importance of generosity. 

Set monetary donation goals.

In anticipation for the holiday season, work with your kids to set individual or family donation goals. As your kids are gifted money for the holidays, work with kids to put funds back for an end-of-year donation. 

  • Allocate a percentage of allowance payouts into your kids Give accounts which can only be used with charitable organizations. 
  • Create a Greenlight Savings Goal to help kids track progress toward a larger donation. Did you know that kids who set saving goals save 29.5% more than kids who don’t? Have your kids research their favorite charitable organizations — ones they identify with the most. If you need someplace to start, these are the 3 most popular organizations for Greenlight kids.

It’s always important to remember the power of the collective. Even the smallest donation is part of a much larger community of givers.

Rewarding generosity.

It’s also important to reward your child’s generosity. Praise them for contributing to causes larger than themselves and weave giving back into regular conversations. You’ll notice how naturally these conversations emerge – whether it’s an ill classmate in need or a school-sponsored food drive.

At Greenlight, we are proud to celebrate generosity. In December, we have some special things planned to encourage the giving nature of Greenlight kids and reward them for their efforts. Stay tuned!

Give with Greenlight!


Sign up for Greenlight today to encourage giving. 

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year to Save and Budget

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us! There’s no better time than now to take up the topic of budgeting and saving with the family. The National Retail Federation forecasts that holiday retail sales will be up 4.2% over 2018, for a total of $730.7 billion spent on gifts for family and friends! Before your kids make their holiday gift lists, start conversations on how to set budgets and save up.

Bring on the budget

Setting a clear budget for the holidays and sticking to it will show your kids they don’t have to go into debt to have a holly jolly holiday season. The average American took on more than $1,000 in debt during the holiday season in 2018, so showing kids the importance of setting a budget, planning for the budget (calculating how much everything will cost for the season and how much they will need to save) and how to stay within the budget will serve them in the future. 

Make a list (check it twice)

Lists aren’t just for Santa Claus to find out who’s naughty or nice during the holiday season — they’re the perfect tool to help stay on budget when it comes to spending.

Before heading out to a store or logging onto Amazon, ask your kids to make a list of who they want to buy presents for and if they know what they plan to get each person (if so, have them add their gift idea to the list). To make sure your child doesn’t run through their holiday budget, ask them to look into the price of what they want to buy before they plan to shop for it.

Having a list to work through will keep shopping focused, both in-store or online, if you’re out shopping on Black Friday or going after deals on Cyber Monday, teach your kids focus is key.

Set a savings goal 

Within the Greenlight app, encourage your kids to set up Saving Goals, specifically for holiday. Perhaps they name it their Christmas Fund or their Gift Goals. Here’s how to set up a Saving Goal: 

  1.     Navigate to your “Save” tab.
  2.     Tap “Add a Savings Goal.”
  3.     Enter a title or description of what you will be saving for.
  4.     Enter a goal amount.
  5.     Tap “Add Savings Goal” to complete the set-up process.

Parents, remember that your kids need permission to spend their savings. As they move money out of their Saving Goals into a spending greenlight, they’ll send you a request. Be on the lookout for when it’s time for them to cross holiday shopping off their to-do list.

The season for deals and shopping steals 

After your kids have saved to meet their holiday Saving Goals, it’s important to talk them through smart spending. The holidays are a great time to teach bargain shopping (especially with a budget in mind). Here are the three shopping days you and your family should consider for deals and steals: 

  • Black Friday: The day after Thanksgiving is considered to be one of the busiest retail days of the year and it’s known for its big sales, discounted prices and often crazy in-store crowds. Black Friday is a good day to teach your kids how to navigate in-store experiences and what it’s like to shop with specific items in mind. It’s never too early to start shopping Black Friday deals, you can check out a comprehensive guide here.
  • Small Business Saturday: The Saturday after Thanksgiving (also known as Shop Small Saturday) is an opportunity to teach your kids about supporting locally owned businesses and small, unique brick and mortars in your neighborhood.
  • Cyber Monday: The Monday after Thanksgiving, known as Cyber Monday, is the hottest day for online retailers to offer some of their best deals for the season. Can’t make it to the mall on Black Friday? Consider shopping Cyber Monday deals from the comfort of your own home. 

Talking to kids about sales, coupons, discounts and the benefits of when to shop in-person and online can help create savvy shoppers for life. 

A little thoughtfulness won’t break the bank 

Gift giving often becomes a major focus during the holiday season, but not all gifts have to come from a store. Some of the most thoughtful gifts come straight from the heart. When your kids are making their holiday gift giving lists, make sure to have the conversation that small, thoughtful gifts can go a long way. 

Cookies, DIY ornaments, arts and crafts projects, handwritten cards and random acts of kindness to those we know and love won’t break the bank. And the warm and fuzzy feeling they bring about is what the holiday season is all about after all.

Add Parent-Paid Interest 

Parents, to encourage saving, consider adding Parent-Paid Interest within the Greenlight app. 

Greenlight offers parents the opportunity to set and pay interest rates on savings to demonstrate the magic of compound interest. Here’s how to set up parent-paid interest!

Get ahead for the holidays with Greenlight

Join Greenlight today to encourage wise saving and smart spending ahead of the winter holidays. Set up a holiday specific savings goal today!

The Fundamentals of Wants and Needs

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were financially-smart kids. The secret to setting your kids up for a solid financial future is to start with the basics. Deeper than the value of a dollar, budgets and why it’s so important to save lies the very basic lesson of: wants and needs are not the same thing. 

While the difference between wants and needs may feel straight forward to grownups, the concept can be complex to kids. Breaking down needs, wants, the fine line between the two and how to make trade-off decisions is critical for instilling money management and financial planning skills. 

Know your needs

Needs are essentials. When teaching your kids how to determine what a need is, it’s important to highlight what is a true necessity and what is a needy request —it’s all about perspective. Here are the categories we consider bare necessities: 

  • Shelter
  • Clothing
  • Food
  • Water

We find that getting as specific as possible when explaining necessities helps kids master the concept and begin to apply it in real-life trade-off decisions. 

Tell me what you want, what you really, really want

If you’re a parent, you’re probably used to hearing the rally cry “I want _____” from your kids. Wants can be described as the things your kids may circle in a magazine or put on an Amazon wish list for the holiday season. Greenlight mom Bonnie Koon even shared that her son once requested $10,000 via his Greenlight app. 

Wants are often inspired by peers, pop culture and hobbies. Here are some hopeful requests made by Greenlight kids. We’ll wait while you have a giggle or two.

When raising financially-smart kids, it’s important for parents to let their kids know that wants are a part of life but making smart choices around those wants will set them up for success. 

The gray area 

No lesson in needs and wants with a child is going to be easy peasy lemon squeezy, so it’s important to get specific for clarity’s sake when dealing with such an abstract conversation. 

Is ice cream a food? Yes, but ice cream is certainly not a necessity. Are Yeezy’s shoes? Yes, but $300 for a pair of shoes is not necessary or a requirement. 

It’s important for parents to let their kids know that it’s okay to want certain things. But making smart choices around those wants will set them up for success. In general, having a discussion around “wanting” things in life can be a powerful and inspirational discussion. You can want to make the soccer team. Want to be president. Want to have a family when you grow up. It is wants and dreams that put humans on the moon and brought us Beyonce. But when it comes to finances – you can’t always get what you want.

Being able to tackle these types of questions head-first will help kids understand the true meaning of a necessity instead of something they very much want, crave or think they need to meet the status quo. 

One way to help kids fully understands wants and needs would be to have them write a list of what they think are needs and what they think are wants. From there, break down needs — if they are a true necessity or not — and tackle what goes into getting a want (such as saving for that pair of Yeezy’s or picking up extra babysitting opportunities to help pay for the spring break trip to New York City). To take it a step further, discuss a budget of $1,000 with your child and include a mix of needs (rent/groceries/phone or car payment) and wants (a new iPhone/concert tickets/new shoes) to showcase that all needs must be met before money goes to wants. 

Want it? Save for it 

Wants and needs make a perfect opportunity to teach the importance of saving money to reach a goal. Want a new pair of jeans? Save for it. Have $100 extra each month after covering necessities? Add extra money to your savings goal to buy a new MacBook. These wants can act as perfect motivators to increase saving.

Setting up clear savings goals with Greenlight will not only teach kids how to set a savings goal and budget to meet their desired goal, but it will motivate them to save more in the long run. We’ll be talking more about saving in November, so stay tuned for tips from Greenlight families on how to have the right money talks.

Save with Greenlight 

Set up a Greenlight savings goal today!